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Bodily maps of emotions

Updated: Apr 19

Are you "feeling Blue" or "seeing Red" do you feel happiness in your heart? Where do you feel anger or anxiety?


This is a fascinating study by the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science, The Brain Research Unit, O. V. Lounasmaa Laboratory, School of Science, Aalto University, FI-00076, Espoo, Finland; The Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, FI-20521, Turku, Finland; and The Human Information Processing Laboratory, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere, FI-33014, Tampere, Finland


We conclude that emotional feelings are associated with discreet yet partially overlapping maps of body sensations, which could be at the core of emotional experience

Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here the study reveals maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants (n = 701) were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions.



They were asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments.


These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples. Statistical classifiers distinguished emotion-specific activation maps accurately, confirming independence of topographies across emotions.

"We propose that emotions are represented in the somatosensory system as culturally universal categorical somatotopic maps. Perception of these emotion-triggered bodily changes may play a key role in generating consciously felt emotions"

Emotions are electrical discharges of the nervous system, so when we don't allow them to be processed or released they an affect our immune system. This can bring about autoimmune diseases where the immune system starts attacking the body instead of defending it. The researchers in this study noted a high degree of similarity across the emotional states of fear and sadness and their respective prolonged clinical variants of anxiety and depression.


Happiness is the only emotion reflected on the body maps with heightened sensations all over the body and the most activated areas appear to be the head and heart. Sadness appears to reduce limb activity, but increase heart activity and depression reflects diminished sensations in the arms, legs and head while the torso stays neutral.


Hypnotherapy and EFT are excellent methods of locating and releasing trapped or unprocessed emotions. Call me for a chat.



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